Thursday, July 28, 2011

2011-07-28 "Chromium 6 limit in water goal set by Calif. EPA" by Wyatt Buchanan from "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper
Sacramento --
The California Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday released the nation's first standard for limiting a cancer-causing chemical in drinking water.
The agency set a public health goal for hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium 6, that will be used by the state's Department of Public Health to help create a legally enforceable limit on the chemical in drinking water. The agency set the goal at .02 parts per billion.
Chromium 6 gained national infamy after a toxic plume contaminated water in the Mojave Desert town of Hinkley (San Bernardino County) - leading to a $333 million settlement from the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. - and was dramatized in the film "Erin Brockovich."
Dr. George Alexeef, acting director of the agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, said the goal "is the culmination of years of study and research on the health effects of this chemical. As the nation's first official goal for this contaminant, it will be an important tool" to develop a regulatory standard.
The Department of Public Health will consider the goal, along with the costs and feasibility of reaching it, in creating a final regulatory standard. That could take several years. The goal is equivalent to a likelihood of one person in a million developing cancer after drinking tap water with that level of the chemical every day for 70 years.
The Legislature called for a standard to be in place by 2004, but there have been a host of delays, including proving scientifically that the chemical is dangerous if ingested. The harmful effects of inhaling it already were established.
Dr. Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, praised the level of the public health goal and said she expected some water agencies would begin reducing the level of the chemical - if it exists in their supply - to that standard even before the state makes a final regulation.
"I expect there will be a few places where there will be problems that need to be addressed and a lot of areas where won't it be very difficult to achieve," Solomon said. The group has called on the federal government to take similar action.

2011-07-28 "Poll: Californians favor more alternative energy" by Kelly Zito from "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper
Eight in 10 Californians favor tougher fuel efficiency standards for cars, federal funding for solar and wind power and curbs on heat-trapping emissions from factories and power plants, a new public opinion poll has found.
And even with the anemic economy, most state residents say policymakers must act now to head off the more damaging impacts of climate change.
"At a time when the economy continues to be a question mark for the average Californian, they remain steadfast in their belief that the state needs to be a leader in climate change policy and in changing the way we use energy," said Mark Baldassare, president and chief executive of the Public Policy Institute of California.
The San Francisco think tank on Wednesday released its 11th annual statewide survey on Californians' attitudes about the environment. The findings, gleaned from 2,500 phone interviews between July 5 and July 19, largely tracked those of previous years, with one exception: Support for building nuclear power plants in California dropped 14 points since last summer, to 30 percent. Researchers say the recent nuclear crisis in Japan pushed the support level to its lowest since the institute began asking the question.

Consistent views -
On most other issues tied to energy and the environment, Californians' views remained consistent.
 A majority - 61 percent - say the effects of climate change are already being felt in their communities, forcing the need for state and federal actions to slash greenhouse gases. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Among the most popular tactics are increasing gas mileage, with 84 percent in favor; increasing government spending on renewable energy sources, with 80 percent in favor; and further regulation of air pollution from refineries, power plants and manufacturing facilities, with 79 percent in favor.
Groups that promote such policies see a crystal clear mandate in the report's figures.

Wake-up call -
"This poll says that Californians want to move forward with clean energy," said Dan Jacobson, legislative director for Environment California in Sacramento. "This should be a wake-up call for state legislators who should be moving as fast as humanly possible on clean energy and clean air."
Indeed, the study also found that 2 in 3 residents stand behind California's largest and most ambitious climate-change policy to date, AB32. Passed in 2006, the law requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
That said, voters were split on the best way to reach that goal. Fifty-four percent of respondents support a cap-and-trade system, in which the state would set a ceiling on the greenhouse gases that can be discharged, and the emitters would buy and sell the rights to release the gases. The policy would also set a hard, declining limit on the total emissions that could be produced.
On the other hand, 60 percent favor a straight-out carbon tax, a fee levied on companies that produce greenhouse gases. The idea there is to deter emitters with higher expenses.

Renewable sources -
Another tool in the state's arsenal - increasing the proportion of energy supply from renewable sources, such as wind, solar and geothermal - also did well in the poll, with 77 percent in favor. That support dropped somewhat, however, when interviewers asked whether renewable energy is worth higher electricity bills. Just under half, 46 percent, favor alternative energy sources if it means paying more.
To some of the state's biggest manufacturers, that statistic only hints at the wider economic consequences of shifting to renewable energy sources, which they say are far more expensive than traditional fuels such as coal and natural gas.
"California already has far more renewable power than any other state in the country," said Gino DiCaro, spokesman for the California Manufacturers and Technology Association. "There's no reason to drive our energy rates even higher and make California businesses less competitive and increase the costs of consumer goods."

Monday, July 25, 2011

2011-07-25 "Emails Show White House Promotes Genetically Engineered Crops in Wildlife Refuges" by Mike Ludwig
The Obama administration is supporting genetically engineered (GE) agriculture in more than 50 national wildlife refuges across the country and watchdog groups say internal emails among top administration officials reveal that the GE plots are a priority in the White House.
 Earlier this year, a settlement in a lawsuit filed by the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and its allies halted the planting of GE crops in US Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife refuges in northeastern states. Now PEER claims the Obama administration is working with the biotech lobby to shield GE plots in refuges from future legal challenges.
 A January 10, 2011 email obtained by PEER reveals that biotech lobbyist Adrianne Massey contacted Peter Schmeissner, the senior policy analyst for the White House Office of Science and Technology, about the legal challenge to GE crop plantings in northeastern refuges.
 Massey, who has made a career out of promoting biotechnology across the world, promotes the public policy of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), a lobby funded by Monsanto and other biotech firms.
 The Obama administration recently created the White House Agricultural Biotechnology Working Group and GE crop opponents claim the interagency group has teamed up with BIO to boost exports of GE crops to countries that have grown leery of America's increasingly transgenic food supply.
 Massey also emailed Schmeissner about legally mandated environmental assessments of GE crops in wildlife refuges. PEER contends the emails are evidence of "collusion" between the Obama administration and the biotech lobby, but it remains unclear how much sway BIO actually holds within the administration. The Office of Science and Technology did not respond to an inquiry from Truthout.
 The biotechnology working group features top-level officials from almost every agency under the Obama administration involved in agricultural trade and beyond, including the State Department, the Justice Department, the Office of Budget and Management, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency.
 Other internal emails reveal that Schmeissner asked top officials in the working group to comment on new environmental assessments of GE crop plantings in refuges across the country. The mandatory assessment can help the government defend the GE crop plantings from legal challenges. So. how did tiny parcels GE crops in wildlife refuges become a priority for top White House officials?
 For years, the Fish and Wildlife Service has allowed farming on national wildlife refuges for the purpose of habitat restoration. The agency claims farming helps develop native grasslands and provides food for wildlife.
Deborah Rocque, a top official for the wildlife refuge system, told Truthout that GE crops restore habitats in ways that conventional crops cannot. Crops that are genetically engineered to tolerate herbicide (such as Monsanto's Roundup Ready corn and soy) provide beneficial ground cover and the herbicides can be sprayed across entire fields, killing only unwanted weeds, but sparring the GE crops.
 Conservationists can debate whether blanketing parcels of wildlife refuges with GE crops and plant-killing chemicals is sound land management practice or an ecologically dangerous experiment, but PEER believes that BIO and the Obama administration are not interested in habitat restoration.
 "The White House is engaging in a joint effort with Monsanto ... and as we understand it, it's part of a White House pledge to double exports," said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch.
 The US has had trouble in recent years exporting GE crops to Europe, where many consumers are skeptical about GE foods and some countries mandate that foods containing GE ingredient must be labeled. Now that more than 90 percent of corn and soy grown in America is GE, the government has a vested interest in promoting the acceptance of GE crops in other countries.
 "These plans are based on the curious notion that wildlife benefit from having the small slivers of habitat set aside for them covered by genetically engineered soybeans," Ruch said of the program in an earlier release. "To boost US exports, the Obama administration is forcing wildlife refuges into political prostitution."
 PEER claims that Fish and Wildlife policy did not allow for GE crops in wildlife refuges unless found essential for some purpose, and some European countries pointed to the policy as evidence that GE crops are not environmentally sound. So by using environmental assessments to justify GE crop plantings in picturesque wildlife refuges, the Obama administration and agribusiness firms can clean up the tarnished image of GE crops worldwide.
 Rocque, however, said that Fish and Wildlife never had a policy whether or not GE crops should be planted in refuges and it simply makes sense to use herbicide-resistant GE crops as a habitat restoration tool.
 Ruch said PEER filed its first legal challenge after being contacted by Fish and Wildlife biologists who opposed using refuge land to grow GE crops. PEER later obtained an internal email among Fish and Wildlife officials that the group believes is evidence that USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has put pressure on the agency to get in line with the broader administration's stance on GE agriculture.
 In the January 14 email, Interior Department Deputy Secretary David Hayes tells Fish and Wildlife Deputy Director Tom Ashe and Interior Department official Tom Strickland that Vilsack is "somewhat exercised that the Administration is not being consistent in supporting genetically engineered crops."
 "This is the White House telling Fish and Wildlife to get out of the way," Ruch said.
 Rocque, however, said she is unaware of any internal pressure from the White House to promote the planting of GE crops in wildlife refuges.

Friday, July 22, 2011

2011-07-22 "Health advocates tout local gardens closer to low-income people" by ISABELLE DILLS from "Napa Valley Register"
Thousands of adults and children in Napa County live in households where putting food on the table is an iffy proposition.
These households are considered “food insecure,” and among the 58 counties in California, Napa ranks among the worst.
According to the most recent data from 2005, Napa County ranked 43rd among the state’s 58 counties for food insecurity.
Although it may not be apparent to tourists, or even local residents, Napa County has “pockets of real poverty,” said Karen Smith, public health officer and deputy director of the Napa County Health and Human Services Agency. Calistoga, in particular, has a “huge income gap,” Smith said.
In addition to poorer health, not having enough to eat or eating more junk food can lead to behavioral problems and poor school performance in children, Smith said. It can also lead to obesity and an increased risk of diabetes in adults because cheap food is often the unhealthiest, she said in a presentation to the Local Food Advisory Council earlier this month.
Formed in February, the Local Food Advisory Council wants to promote a more diverse Napa County food system, with healthy foods more accessible to all residents.
At the same time, the county's Public Health Division is working to bring nonprofit organizations and residents together to identify gaps in health care, Smith said.
She wants to bring farmers markets closer to low-income neighborhoods.
Farmers markets play a “huge” role in improving residents’ health, said Karen Schuppert, a Napa Farmers Market board member and chair of the Local Food Advisory Council.
“We have the ultimate climate in an agricultural community, so our infrastructure is already in place,” Schuppert said.
The challenge, however, is to encourage local farmers to grow something other than grapes. “No one’s going to pull up a cabernet vineyard to plant lettuce,” Smith said.
Other challenges include:
• convincing larger, institutional food producers such as jails and hospitals to buy more local food;
• convince consumers to eat healthy and local.
“We have to convert people to wanting healthy and locally grown food,” Smith said. “We also have to make it economically viable.”
To that end, every eligible food vendor at the Napa Farmers Market began accepting Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, which are identification cards for the food stamp program, at the start of this season, Schuppert said.
All food vendors are eligible except those selling food prepared on site. WIC checks — from the Women, Infants and Children program — are also accepted by most vendors who sell fruits, vegetables and cut herbs, she said.
A small step people, neighborhoods and schools can take immediately is growing food in their own gardens, Smith said. It’s especially helpful when schools create their own gardens, because children take what they learn home to their families, she said.
The focus in health care has always been about individual wellness, Smith said. The goal for the county — and what should be the goal for the U.S. — is shifting that focus to health for the whole community, she said.
“This country has enough resources to bring everybody up to a level of good health and wellness,” Smith said.
TUESDAY - JULY 19, 2011 - NAPA, CA - As society continues to wrestle with increased obesity, a possible solution is developing a local, sustainable food system like the Tuesday Farmers Market at the Oxbow. A contributing factor to poor eating habits is a high poverty rate, like in Napa County. J.L. Sousa/Register

Thursday, July 21, 2011

2011-08-21 "Golden State grasslands" by Jon Christensen from "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper
The natural beauty of Northern California's grasslands is a paradoxical thing. There is little that is natural about it.
For many years, this caused no end of consternation. Early explorers, missionaries and ranchers were unsettled by constant fires set by Indians to keep grasslands open, producing seeds and attracting wildlife. In more recent times, environmentalists have battled to get rid of cattle, which brought new grass species to California, pushing aside native plants in almost all of the state's grasslands.
Those emerald green hills of spring and summer's golden waves of windswept beauty? Turns out they're an impure product of human history. But in the Bay Area, ranchers and environmentalists are coming "full circle," in the words of rancher Scott Stone, to fully embrace this paradox and work together to ensure that these "working landscapes" continue to work.

The threat -
Around the globe, grasslands are in dire need of such care. Nearly half of all temperate grasslands, like those in Northern California, have been plowed up or paved over. They are the most threatened and least protected habitat in the world. Less than 5 percent of temperate grasslands are protected globally.
The Bay Area is doing stunningly better. Of the 1.7 million acres of open ranchland remaining here, more than 1 million acres are protected under agreements with ranchers who keep working the land. They're happy to do it. "It's great to go to work every day," says Stone, a fourth-generation rancher whose herd of 800 cows grazes on the oak-studded hills atop Blue Ridge east of Lake Berryessa.
These days, environmentalists are happy to see ranchers and cows out there, too. "Grazing is an important tool for conservation," says Bettina Ring, executive director of the Bay Area Open Space Council.
Around the Bay Area, grazing is being used to create and maintain habitat for threatened species such as the San Joaquin kit fox, the burrowing owl, the red-legged frog, the tiger salamander, the bay checkerspot butterfly and the Ohlone tiger beetle. Grasslands also provide habitat for native bees and other pollinators. Scientists at UC Berkeley have calculated that native bees living in nooks and crannies in the soil and trees and in the hollow stems of grazed grasses and reeds pollinate 35 to 39 percent of California's crops, a service worth $937 million to $2.4 billion a year.
Claire Kremen, a professor of environmental sciences, announced those findings at a recent "uncommon dialogue" among ranchers, environmentalists, scientists and historians at Stanford University.

Working ranches -
Darrel Sweet, a fifth-generation rancher in the sere, treeless grasslands of Altamont Pass, says he has been "surprised and delighted" by the growing recognition of the importance of keeping working ranches in the mix of the Bay Area's metropolitan matrix. His ranch looks down on Livermore. Wind turbines and housing developments march across the nearby hills.
"If the habitats are a result of what ranchers have been doing, how are you going to protect the habitat without protecting what the ranchers have been doing?" Sweet asked the group at Stanford.
 He has some answers. The Sweet ranch is protected under the Williamson Act, a California law that enables the ranch to be taxed as rangeland rather than the far higher market value it would have if it were subdivided into ranchettes. That helps the Sweets make the ranch pay economically and keep it in the family. He also has used Caltrans funding for wetland mitigation and federal funding for wildlife habitat to create and protect habitat for three endangered species - tiger salamanders, red-legged frogs and kit foxes.
Ranchers in other parts of the Alameda Creek watershed are working with the San Francisco Public Utility Commission to protect an important source of drinking water for the city's Hetch Hetchy system. Well-maintained rangelands with good grazing management shed fewer contaminants and sediment into waterways than the roads and homes of subdivisions. Paying ranchers to stay on the land and improve their rangelands turns out to be a better investment than paying for additional water treatment facilities.
Farther south, in the Santa Clara Valley, environmentalists want to make sure ranchers keep their cattle grazing on habitat for the threatened bay checkerspot butterfly. The cows keep down the grass, making room for native wildflowers, and the butterfly thrives. If the cows disappear, the butterflies disappear, too.

Critters on the land -
Up on Scott Stone's ranch, they're raising Swainson's hawks on land protected by a conservation easement as well as growing grass-fed beef sold in Whole Foods Markets throughout Northern California. The beef is marketed by Panorama Grass-Fed Meats, a natural and organic beef distributor founded by Darrell Wood, who grazes his cattle in the Vina Plains, where Coho and Chinook salmon run up Deer Creek and endangered fairy shrimp thrive in vernal pools protected by a conservation easement purchased by the California Rangeland Trust. Conservation easements paid Wood and Stone for the development rights on their ranches, which now can never be subdivided. These ranchers love talking about their "ground" and the critters that share it. There is a soft side to their hard-working cowboy drawls. Yet they are hard-nosed businessmen. "Cattle ranching is a business," Wood emphasizes. And it ain't easy making ends meet.
Increasingly, it is a business that concerns everyone who cares about California's grasslands and what they produce for all of us. But Stone and Wood chuckle ruefully when asked about a successful "business model" for keeping ranching in the Bay Area. "You'll never find two outfits that are the same," says Stone. "There's no one-size-fits-all model," says Wood.
Most successful ranchers have multiple family members with jobs off the ranch "to support our ranching habit," says Stone. They piece together other payments for the "ecosystem services" that they provide for all of us - clean water, habitat for species, and maybe someday, capturing and storing carbon dioxide in the soil - through conservation easements, tax breaks, mitigation monies, government grants and cooperative projects with conservation organizations. And they sell a premium product to customers who care about what they eat and where it's grown - in some of Northern California's most iconic scenery, those oak-studded golden grasslands.
Jon Christensen is executive director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West, which sponsored the recent "uncommon dialogue" on ranching and rangelands with the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University.
Darrell Wood repairs a fence on his land in Tehama County, above, where he raises organic beef cattle that he sells to Whole Foods markets in Northern California. He runs the largest ranch in the state raising organic beef and works to balance the needs of farming with preservation of the grasslands.
Credit: Photos by Brian Baer / Special to the Chronicle

2011-07-21 "S.F. moves closer to Yuba County landfill pact" by Rachel Gordon from "San Francisco Chronicle"
San Francisco is one step closer to sending more than 5 million tons of trash to rural Yuba County over a 10-year period after a Board of Supervisors committee backed a new landfill agreement Wednesday.
The proposal, to be considered by the full board next week, has been the center of an extended City Hall debate over which company is best suited to bury San Francisco's waste that isn't recycled or composted and ends up in the dump.
The current 27-year agreement with Waste Management to dump San Francisco's garbage at its Altamont Landfill site in Livermore expires in 2015.
The San Francisco Department on the Environment, which oversees the landfill contract, rejected Waste Management's bid to keep the contract. The department instead picked Recology, the San Francisco waste-management company formerly known as NorCal Waste Systems that already has a 79-year-old monopoly on picking up the city's waste.
Melanie Nutter, who heads the department, said she is confident that the proposed Recology contract "is the best deal for San Francisco and the ratepayers."
Nutter said the cost savings could be as much as $100 million over the life of the contract - a number that critics of the deal dispute, saying that Yuba County could boost costs to use the 236-acre landfill owned by Recology just outside of Wheatland.
Lobbyists and executives from the competing companies showed up at City Hall in force to attend the committee hearing.
Waste Management, based in Alameda County, sued this week to block the proposed deal with Recology, and some Yuba County residents and business interests have been fighting the proposal to let San Francisco put its garbage in their backyard.
"We want to preserve the water quality to grow quality crops," said Matthew Conant, a walnut farmer in the area who serves on the California Farm Bureau Board.
Other business interests in the region, one of the poorest in the state, welcome the waste at Recology's Ostrom Road landfill, saying it will bring more jobs and money.
Under the proposal, San Francisco landfill-bound waste would be trucked to Oakland and then put on rail cars for a 130-mile journey to Yuba County.
San Francisco now generates abut 5,600 tons of trash a day, with all but 20 percent or so diverted from landfill. San Francisco's goal is to have zero landfill waste by 2020.
City officials who back the Recology contract said that in addition to projected cost savings, the company has to be praised for its commitment to recycling and composting.
The employee-owned company also has strong support from organized labor.
"They have a good track record with the workers and have provided us with very solid service to help San Francisco reach a meaningful diversion rate," said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi.

2011-07-21 "Recology president Mike Sangiacomo disses the Guardian as landfill agreements head to full Board" by Sarah Phelan from "San Francisco Bay Guardian" newspaper
Dressed in neon- yellow vests, a crowd of Recology employees filed into the Board’s Chambers to witness the Board’s Budget and Finance subcommittee, which Sup. Carmen Chu chairs, vote to forward the Department of Environment’s proposal to award the city’s landfill disposal and facilitation agreements to Recology (formerly NorCal Waste, Inc), to the full Board.
The B&F vote wasn’t exactly a surprise. In the past six months, Recology's top brass have been exerting pressure on the committee members to approve the agreements, which got delayed after folks started raising questions about the lack of a franchise fee and competitive bidding on all other aspects of San Francisco's multimillion dollar municipal solid waste stream. And lobbyist Alex Clemens reported $17, 134.25 in promised payments from Recology between January and June 2011 for services that included contact with B&F subcommittee vice-chair Ross Mirkarimi in mid-June.
If the full Board goes ahead and gives the green light July 26, that approval would authorize Recology, which Waste Age's June 2011 issue named as the 10th largest waste management company in the U.S.,  to start transporting and disposing up to 5 million tons of municipal solid waste in its Ostrom Road Landfill in Wheatland, Yuba County, once the city’s agreement at Waste Management’s Altamont landfill in Livermore expires, which is expected to happen some time in 2014 or 2015.
The initial refusal of Mirkarimi and fellow B&F subcommittee member Sup. Jane Kim to agree to Chu’s suggestion that they forward the proposed agreements “with recommendation” appeared to be indications that both supervisors harbored some concerns about the deal. UPDATE: But According to DoE communications director Mark Westlund, before yesterday's meeting was over, Mirkarimi called to rescind the vote on the landfill item asking for it to go to the full Board with recommendation. Jane Kim concurred, and so now it goes to the Board with unanimous committee support. 
“Overall, I think this was a good contract,” Kim said during the July 20 hearing.
Kim added that she thinks “We need to continue the dialogue,” about the city’s 1932 refuse collection and disposal ordinance, which resulted in Recology gaining a monopoly over every aspect of the city’s $225 million-a-year waste stream, except the $11-million-a-year landfill disposal agreement.
Kim noted that under the arrangement that grew out of the 1932 ordiance the city doesn't get a  franchise fee. And she claimed that San Francisco is getting half of what other Bay Area cities, which all have franchise fees, get from their waste contractors. “So, I’m really interested in continuing that conversation, but I think it’s a separate conversation,” Kim said.
Mirkarimi, who is running for sheriff this fall, noted that he has been “the most outspoken member” of the committee on the Recology item, and that his concerns were what led the committee to “put a pause” on the deal, until the committee could “undertake more homework.”
Thanks to that pause, the city’s LAFCO committee was able to commission a report on what other jurisdictions do around transporting and disposing of their solid waste in landfills, and Mirkarimi noted that his office “held a number of meetings” and he tried to leverage this opportunity to “reanimate activity at the Port.”
“I was hoping we might be able to arrive at something much more deliverable,” Mirkarimi said, presumably referring to the fact that these efforts only resulted in DoE unveiling a last-minute amendment to include two “possible changes” to operations and facilities at the Port of San Francisco in the agreements.
These possible changes, which DoE director Melanie Nutter presented during the July 20 hearing, involve a) utilizing modes of transportation, including barges, other than, or in addition to, the rail haul plan proposed in the agreement, b) developing new facilities at the Port for the handling of waste, recyclables, organics and other refuse, meeting no later than the fifth anniversary of the agreement to discuss the feasibility of such changes, and c) incorporating into the rates, or otherwise financing, the cost of implementing such transportation alternatives and the cost of such facilities.
“I think that cost-effectively we may be able to insert the Port into this equation, but it’s not ready for prime-time yet,” Mirkarimi observed.
Mirkarimi concluded by noting the many innovative things Recology has done in terms of making the city’s waste disposal system more environmentally friendly. “This should be a front-burner conversation,” Mirkarimi said noting that Mayor Gavin Newsom made it a focus of his administration to make San Francisco the greenest city. Referring to the fact that San Francisco claims to have a 77 percent diversion rate—the highest in the U.S—Mirkarimi said, “That comes at a cost, it doesn’t come for free.”
Mirkarimi’s comments came in the wake of Nutter's claims that Recology’s bid for the landfill disposal agreement will save ratepayers $130 million, over the 10-year course of the agreement, compared to the bid that Waste Management submitted. “This is the best deal for San Francisco,” Nutter said.
Nutter’s estimates were repeated by Jim Lazarus, who spoke on behalf of the SF Chamber of Commerce and the Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth. "This is the right contract for the people of San Francisco,” Lazarus said.
But Nutter’s $130 million estimate was thrown into question by Yuba County Sup. Roger Abe, who had driven the 130 miles from Wheatland to alert San Francisco  that Recology’s bid is based on the assumption that Yuba County will only charge San Francisco a $4.40 per ton host fee.
As Abe pointed out, Yuba’s rates have not changed in 14 years, and his county is considering increasing them later this year by up to $20 or $30 a ton.
Such an increase, multiplied by the 5-million tons of garbage in the agreement, could dramatically increase the cost to San Francisco ratepayers over the course of 10 years, Abe observed..
[If Yuba County approves an increase, and diesel fuel prices also increase, it could eliminate much of the cost differential between Recology’s and WM’s bid: a recent Budget and Legislative Analyst report shows that Recology would charge $58.94 a ton, ($28.53 for tipping and other fees + $30.14 transportation cost per ton), while WM would charge $66.79 for tipping and other fees + $18.33 transportation costs per ton.). But if diesel rises above $2:30 a gallon, SF ratepayers could also get hit with a fuel surcharge.]
Also speaking at the hearing was former D10 supervisorial candidate Tony Kelly, who along with retired Judge Quentin Kopp, David Gavrich’s SF Bay Railroad, and other concerned citizens, recently gathered 12,000 signatures to qualify a petition to require all aspects of San Francisco’s $225-million-a-year waste services to be put out to bid, and to require the winning bidder to pay San Francisco an annual franchise fee.
Kelly et al were originally aiming to qualify their petition for the 2011 ballot, but they blame what Kelly described during public comment as, “a very expensive advertising campaign,” by Recology, plus harassment of petition gatherers and signers, as why they ultimately had to delay qualifying their initiative until the June 2012 election cycle.
Kelly urged the committee to probe the details of a $10 million Special Reserve fund, which Recology could access, under the terms of its facilitation agreement, to cover all its expenses that have not yet been reimbursed through rate hikes. “You’d think the Budget and Finance sub-committee would want to explore those things,” Kelly said.
David Gavrich, who is also President & CEO of Waste Solutions Group, which has hauled 6 million tons of waste in the last 20 years, said approving the landfill disposal agreement, without knowing what rates Yuba County are about to set, was tantamount to “opening up San Francisco’s check book to Yuba County.”
“Recology has never moved a single ton by rail,” Gavrich also asserted.
But while none of the supervisors asked for any clarification of details in the proposed agreements, including the last-minute amendment, during the hearing, Chu was quick to comment about Gavrich’s “blank check” comment, noting that any county can increase its rates. “Alameda County already charges a lot more, so there are no guarantees either way,” Chu said.
She also claimed that the agreements had been subjected to a “very extensive, competitive and open process, especially around tipping fees.” What Chu didn’t mention is that earlier this week, WM filed a writ of mandate with San Francisco Superior Court to prevent the final award of a new long-term solid waste transportation agreement and landfill disposal contract to Recology ordinances, on the grounds that the deal violates the City’s competitive procurement laws.
Instead, Chu urged moving on the deal as soon as possible, by invoking the specter of a disaster hitting San Francisco before a landfill agreement is reached.
"Imagine if we had to go to the open market,” Chu said, apparently ignoring the fact that WM has stated that it would take SF’s waste in an emergency.
After the vote, Kelly expressed concern that the agreements are not competitive, but cost-plus, which means all costs get passed along to ratepayers. And that the city continues to lack a contract and ensuing franchise fees. “They are running this as if it’s still the 1950s,” Kelly said.
Kelly claimed that Recology Vice President John Legnitto, who is the 2011 Chair of the SF Chamber of Commerce’s Board, told him that Recology had been in negotiations with City Hall around a $4 million franchise fee, but that the money would now be spent opposing Kelly et al’s competitive bidding initiative.
But when the Guardian approached Legnitto after the hearing, he refused to comment, telling me my questions should go to Recology’s Robert Reed.
And Recology President Mike Sangiacomo, who was speaking to Chronicle reporter Rachel Gordon rudely told me, “Not today thank you,” when I approached him seeking comment on the Board committee’s vote.
“What did you do to him?” Gordon asked, as she followed Sangiacomo into a corner of City Hall. Er, nothing. Except what any self-respecting reporter would do. Like ask questions, read documents, and challenge the spin.
But that something clearly has ruffled the feathers of Recology’s top brass.
 “It’s like Godzilla, it’s like Monster Island, they can’t help themselves,” Beyond Chron’s Eric Smith commented to me during the hearing. “I’m disgusted by how money, labor and all these different entities can influence what happens. They don’t care about the little people. They care about the bottom line.”
Smith, who ran for D10 supervisor in 2010, spoke to the huge pressure that has been exerted on those supervisors who have publicly raised questions about Recology’s monopoly over all other aspects of the city’s $225 million-per-year waste stream. “Big corporations like Recology throw big money around and intimidate the electeds,” Smith said.
Meanwhile, DoE deputy director David Assmann confirmed that the City Attorney’s Office is looking at WM’s writ of mandate. But Assmann added that it is too early to respond to questions about the implications of that legal action on the Recology agreements.
Assmann also responded to a number of questions I'd already raised on the Guardian’s blog about the juicy details buried in the Recology agreements, beginning with a special reserve fund that was established in 1988, as part of Recology’s facilitation agreement that governed the transportation of waste to WM's Altamont landfill, which is where San Francisco has been depositing its trash since 1987, and that will be rolled over to form the basis of a new special reserve fund.
Assmann said the fund currently contains almost $29 million, but only needs a baseline of $15 million. The extra funds will be the subject of a hearing this fall, he said, to determine how to use the balance, including exploring the possibility of using the funds, which were collected through a 1.3 percent surcharge on ratepayers, to lower the garbage rates.
Assmann also noted that while there is no limit on how much Yuba County can theoretically increase its host fees, “there has to be a nexus with associated costs,” and that Yuba County supervisors would have to bring any such proposed increase, which would also apply to all their other landfill users, to their voters.
Assmann further noted that the idea behind developing new facilities relates to the city’s 2020 goal of zero waste is “to get to zero waste we need new methods of handling waste,” Assmann told me explaining that San Francisco wants to be able to take residual material and process it so it could be recycled and wouldn’t end up in the landfill.
Assmann said a consultant is comparing the feasibility of building those facilities on land next to Recology’s Tunnel Road facility in Brisbane, or on land the Port owns in San Francisco, and the report should be completed later this year. He also noted that the transportation amendment would allow the City to switch or improve its transportation mode, during the life of the agreement, should cleaner technologies be developed, “including trains that run on less polluting fuel.”
Assmann clarified that San Francisco ratepayers won’t be footing the cost of building a new rail spur in Yuba County. “We’re not paying capital costs. The rail spur is not a cost that Recology can charge because it’s out of county. And if San Francisco only produces 2 million tons during the life of the agreement, we are under no obligation beyond that.”
And he noted that a potential $10 million contingency payment would only go into play if the City gave Recology the green light, and the company incurred costs related to rail haul, and the City then reneged on its deal, at which point Recology could then use its incurred costs to justify why it needs up to $10 million to included in the garbage rates.
All interesting details as we approach the Board’s July 26 vote—with a lawsuit hanging over the City’s head. So stay tuned…

Comment by Tracy Austin:
Shame on you Ms. Phelan! You hurt Mr. Sangiacomo's feelings. Your article on 'Digging into the juicy details of Recology's proposed landfill disposal and facilitation agreements' was spot on and raised great questions.
“Big corporations like Recology throw big money around and intimidate the electeds,” True. Note that they've not only sued Humboldt County Nevada; but the Humboldt County Commissioners as individuals; when the commissioners did not vote to extend the 3 year condional use permit Recology did not complete for another 5 years.
Same patterns: Cozy up to elected officials, heavy PR, intimidate local officals that don't fall in line, heavy PR, fight to change/expand operations once they get a foothold, heavy PR, intimidate. Asside from suing local government in Humboldt County, they are sponsoring field trips to the Ostrum Landfill site, maintain a page in the local paper where non-profit ads get posted (they don't know they are placed on a page sponsored by Recology). Jokingly, they even offered 'recycling classes'. Now, certainly, Winnemucca, anyone, could benefit from Recycling classes. But Recology is planning to haul in over 1 million TONS year of non-recycleable CA waste to this small community. Winnemucca voters, passed an ordiance by 70% of the voters to to limit out of town waste to 1 1/2 times the amount generated by regional users of the Humboldt County landfill.This limit equates to approximately 15,000 tons per year. So very humorous/hypocritical of Recology to teach recycling.
You'd need to contact Yuba Group Against Garbage (YuGAG) with any questions on the material; but the folks in Yuba County have combed over a 'Frequently Asked Questions' document currently posted at the San Francisco Department of the Environment ( under quick links). They published clarification on many of the items deemed accurate and unchallenged by the department. Here's the Frequently Asked Questions document with the YuGAG clarifications: []
Thanks for keeping us posted Ms. Phelan.
Get involved/informed: []
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Recology's business model in San Francisco has always been the bait and switch.
They have always done it. The Special Reserve Fund was set up years ago by Public Works so they had the financial ability to audit Norcal Waste now Recology.
 If the city did an audit on Recology they would find millions and millions of money that never went to where it was supposed to go. They say they need all new equipment not true and they only buy a handful of trucks. Labor costs for certain programs and benefits not true and on and on. Recology exports there business model to San Bernardino and San Jose and get's indited. That's why the name change.Here in San Francisco corruption continues with the full support of the Teamsters Local 350.Union and elected and non elected officials like Melanie Nutter Pelosi's top aide. I wonder why they chose her? or did Recology
 The Federal Government is the only one who could break this up. Good luck SF your going to need it.

2011-07-27 "$112 million deal may send S.F. trash to Yuba County" by Will Kane from "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper
San Franciscan trash could soon be headed to faraway Yuba County after the Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a controversial $112 million contract to send city refuse to the rural area.
Over 10 years, 5 million tons of San Francisco garbage could be loaded onto trains and taken almost 132 miles to a landfill site just outside Wheatland. The deal between dump owner Recology and the city will likely start in 2015 and last until 2025. But the city hopes there will be no trash to haul by 2020.
A coalition of Yuba County residents and San Francisco activists objected to what they said was a sweetheart deal between the city and Recology that would end up costing the city plenty and harming the environment in Yuba County.
But by a vote of 9-2, the board OKd a contract supporters said would save city residents more than $100 million over 10 years and protect the environment. Supervisors David Campos and John Avalos voted against the plan.
"It is a good day for Recology, a better day for the rate payers of San Francisco," said Adam Alberti, a company spokesman.
Until now, Recology has collected trash in San Francisco and shipped it to landfills owned by competitors, notably Waste Management, which operates the current landfill in Altamont. But now, Recology will gather trash in the city and dump it at its own landfill. This arrangement cuts costs but bothered would-be competitors - like Waste Management - and some city officials, who say the no-bid arrangement isn't fair.
"We are reliant on an outdated process," Avalos said before the vote.
A 1932 ordinance virtually guarantees that Recology, formerly Norcal Waste Systems, will have the exclusive right to collect trash in San Francisco. An initiative to open trash collection in San Francisco to competitive bidding is expected to be placed on the June 2012 ballot.
The city Department of the Environment began working on the big-bucks question of who gets San Francisco's trash almost five years ago. Recology will still have to secure a number of local approvals before the deal will be complete, including approval of a rail spur into the dump, Alberti said.
Residents of Yuba County - one of the poorest counties in the state - are mixed on whether they want to be home to San Francisco's trash. The deal will bring jobs and $22 million to the county.
But it will also bring 5 million tons of trash to a landfill surrounded by verdant agricultural land.
"The green stops at the city limits of San Francisco," said Rick Paskowitz, a member of the Yuba Group Against Garbage (YuGaG), who can see the landfill from his home. "Our bottom line is not to produce contaminated food that comes down to San Francisco."
City environment officials say they have no concerns about the landfill. The plan calls for trash to be collected and trucked to Oakland in special containers that can be loaded onto a train. At least three times per week, a 45-car train will roll to the Recology landfill.
Irene Creps, a San Francisco resident who owns property near Wheatland and is opposed to the landfill project, said she wasn't surprised the city approved the contract.
"It is a big company," she said, referring to Recology. "It is the same way everywhere; the whole thing is acting toward who holds the money power."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

2011-07-16 "‘Unusual Event’ Reported At SoCal Nuclear Plant"
SAN ONOFRE, Calif. (AP) – Utility officials say one of several redundant security systems used to monitor the grounds of Southern California’s San Onofre nuclear plant stopped working for 45 minutes, triggering a declaration of the lowest level of emergency.
Gil Alexander, a spokesman for the plant’s operator, Southern California Edison, said an “unusual event” was declared at 6:12 a.m.
Although the security system was restored within 45 minutes, the Orange County plant remained on unusual event status until 9:50 a.m.
Alexander said the failure was not related to nuclear operations and no part of the plant’s perimeter was left unguarded.
Edison did not release details of the incident or say what kind of equipment was involved.
Officials were still trying to determine the cause of the failure Saturday afternoon.
Alexander said the unusual event declaration required immediate notification of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

2010-07-10 "Saving a slice of heaven - Eden that is West Marin" by Carl Nolte from "San Francisco Chronicle"
We were off on vacation for a couple of weeks. We didn't go to New York, Paris or Rome. None of those places.
We went across the Golden Gate and over the hill to West Marin, 20 or so winding miles from the nearest traffic light. We spent afternoons eating Marin oysters and drinking Marin white wine at a funky store and restaurant. A brisk summer wind blew off the blue Tomales Bay. This is the life, I thought.
It always amazes me that there are places like West Marin in the 21st century, so close to the city and the 7 million people who live around San Francisco Bay - and yet so far away.
There are still dairy ranches in West Marin, still rolling hills, green in winter and tawny brown in summer, still little towns off the main roads, still a sense of what the Bay Area used to be like when my father was a kid, long ago.
Of course nothing is the same, not really. Point Reyes Station is getting to be so cute it can make your teeth ache. There are close to 40 inns and bed-and-breakfast places in West Marin. The Osteria Stellina restaurant in Point Reyes Station has a national reputation, a destination for foodies.
 Despite all that, West Marin is still rural, though keeping it that way was a near thing. The agents of progress always had an eye on the area. In her charming book about Stinson Beach, Joan Reutinger tells of plans to turn that corner of the world into a small city of 28,000 souls with a 1,600-berth marina in the Bolinas Lagoon.
 Farther north, the idea was to transform the shores of Tomales Bay, building new schools, shopping centers, homes for maybe 100,000 people, and reached by a San Rafael-to-the-sea freeway and an airport.
None of that happened, because West Marin is a bit different. It is still small: Inverness is the biggest town, with 1,474 residents. None of the other towns has a population over a thousand.
"To understand West Marin and the Point Reyes Peninsula in particular, the area's insular character needs to be understood," writes Philip Fradkin in a new book about the coast.
"There's a spirit out here," says Amanda Eichstaedt, who is the general manager of KWMR, the local radio station, which fades away at White's Hill, the eastern frontier of the area.
The first battle, in 1962, was to preserve the Point Reyes Peninsula, a place writer Harold Gilliam called "An Island in Time." Clem Miller, a congressman who represented Marin, was the architect of the Point Reyes National Seashore. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area followed 10 years later, which preserved the Olema Valley and east shore of Tomales Bay.
 But still, says Dewey Livingston, a local historian, people began to realize that just preserving parkland wasn't enough. The rural character of the land had to be saved, too. That was done by zoning - one house every 60 acres - so that a third of Marin County is zoned for agriculture.
However, agriculture - mostly dairy ranches - needed more room. And another organization - the Marin Agricultural Land Trust - was established in 1980; it buys development rights from ranchers.
"We pay the farmer the difference between what the land would be worth if it were developed and what it is worth as ranch land," said Constance Washburn, the group's education director. Since 1980, Malt has paid $50 million for development rights. "We have protected 67 family farms and 42,000 acres," she said. The program, she said, "has made it possible for agriculture to have a future here."
 There has also been an agricultural shift. In 1997, only 312 acres were farmed organically in Marin; in 2009, 52 farms were certified organic on 18,000 acres. They produce grass-fed beef, famous cheeses, upscale chickens. It is a niche market, perfect for West Marin.
 But there is a price. Restricting development meant the little towns can't grow and housing prices have gone through the roof. Ranch workers can't afford to live where they work.
"Old-timers go to town, and they don't see anybody they know," says Livingston.
"We still live in heaven out here," he said. "Even if it is an artificial heaven."

Napa Valley: Endangered Species and Species-of-Concern

From 2011-07 "Activist News" newsletter compiled by John Stephens:
A Biological Resource Survey report in the Davidowski/Soda Canyon Vineyard file shows a map of endangered species within a five-mile radius of the new vineyard. Within the red lined, five-mile circle the Foothill Yellow-Legged Frog [Rana boylii] is listed on Hopper Creek running through the town of Yountville. It is normally found in streams in stretches free of predatory fish in the Sierra foothills, hence the name. The map also showed them in a Carneros district creek.

Adult Foothill Yellow-Legged Frog, Butte County © 2005 Jackson Shedd

 [John Stephens writes]:
I am the unhappy owner of a small over-indebted house in the Alta Heights neighborhood. The tenant called me up one Saturday and told me a large limb had fallen in the front yard from a Silk Tree. I rushed over to find that a 4' limb had broken off from a dead branch. Half of the branch was still on the tree, but it had a new woodpecker hole in it. Deadwood is very scarce around human habitation, and woodpecker homes are rare.
We tend to think that deadwood is only good for firewood and should be cut down immediately, like weeds. I was so excited. The tenant said she looked down in it with a flashlight and two bright but worried eyes looked back at her. She said the neighborhood cats were very interested in the hole so I immediately went to the hardware store and put an 18" aluminum flashing around the tree so the cats couldn't get up into the tree.
Now there are happy eyes in the tree.

Acorn Woodpecker in Inverness, Marin County, California. Photo 2010-12-07 by Jim Coda []

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

2011-07-06 "Clearing Space: An empty Santa Rosa swath of land, once slated for a freeway, finally moves into a second life" by Leilani Clark from "Northbay Bohemian" newspaper
 On June 23, the Southeast Greenway preview tour sponsored by LandPaths was intended to offer a meandering walk alongside a two-mile swath of Caltrans-owned land running between Farmers Lane and Spring Lake Park in Santa Rosa.
 And it did—until a group of homeowners, some of whom lease part of the land from Caltrans for horse pastures, confronted the tour, declaring the area "private property."
 Linda Proulx and Thea Hensel, co-chairs of the Southeast Greenway Campaign, were on the hike. They tell the story as we sit in a car, musing over a new "Private Property" sign recently posted on a gate above Summerfield Road. "They jumped out of the bushes," says Proulx, recounting the incident with surprise.
 The story is another in a lineage that would make fine fodder for an environmental suspense novel. For a property that can barely be seen from the highway, the strip of land has a dramatic history, caught between neighborhood activists agitating for a modern greenway, homeowners worried about loss of privacy and those with a taste for asphalt and cement.
 First purchased by Caltrans in 1959, the parcel was slated for a Highway 12 bypass complete with a bridge over Spring Lake. But activists rallied, forming the Committee to Save Spring Lake, and construction was postponed. By the '90s, amid a weak budget and community opposition, the bypass was removed from the general plan. Since then, it has stood undeveloped, inhabited by horse pastures, informal footpaths, the homeless, deer and occasional paint-ballers.
 "When you're driving around the neighborhood, you don't get the impact of how big it is and where it really goes," says Hensel. "They used to call it the bridge to nowhere, but this is not a road to nowhere. This is a path to the park and the downtown area."
 It's the potential for a corridor that would link a "cut-in-half" Bennett Valley with the east and west sections of Santa Rosa that inspired the formation of the Southeast Greenway Campaign in 2009. The committee is working to see the 50-acre parcel transformed into a space humming with community gardens, trails, creeks, bike depots, heritage orchards and community interaction.
 Recently, the all-volunteer-run project was chosen as a study subject by the American Institute of Architects Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) a program that helps communities develop a framework for a sustainable future. The SDAT application process is a selective one, says Erin Simmons, director of design assistance at the institute.
 "We found the Southeast Greenway application to be particularly compelling given the undeveloped nature of the property," says Simmons by phone. "There are not many communities that can boast an untouched two-mile swath of land running through existing neighborhoods."
 In June, a national team of city planners, landscape architects and urban designers descended on Santa Rosa for three days of focused discussion, study and town hall meetings on the greenway's possibilities.
 "It's a really compelling story," says Wayne Feiden, SDAT team leader. "That corridor was created at the birth of interstates in the country. Yet as a nation we've made a lot of changes, and we no longer think that interstates are a solution to all the problems."
 A formal report will be issued in the fall, but the team has already recommended that the Southeast Greenway Campaign consider the possibility of partnering with Caltrans instead of trying to acquire the land.
 "This had always been deemed as a road or some sort of transit corridor, and the SDAT's evaluation was to keep it as a transit corridor. But that doesn't necessarily mean building a road and putting cars on it," says Hensel.
 If the campaign's vision comes to fruition, it would result in the ability to travel from Spring Lake to Forestville via interconnected bike and pedestrian paths.
 Feiden says that, in his discussions with people living around the parcel, those opposing the greenway don't like the idea of a public trail near their backyards. But, he notes, the land could still be sold to a developer, leaving open the possibility that houses could replace pastures and orchards.
 "Caltrans is not a parks agency," he says. "They are not going to hold the land as a park. We hope to keep it as a transportation network."
 Adds Proulx, "We're trying to create livable, walkable, bikable neighborhoods so that we can all have more community without getting into our cars every minute of the day."
2011-07-06 "Wind plan raises concern" by Tony Burchyns from "Vallejo Times-Herald"
Solano County's latest wind farm project has one nonprofit group worried about the damage the turbines could do to birds, including protected species.
The concern centers on the proposed Montezuma II Wind Energy Project, which will consist of up to 34 turbines and other facilities, with a total energy generation capacity of up to 78.2 megawatts in the Montezuma Hills.
The Solano County Planning Commission is set to approve the 2,500-acre project Thursday night after a public hearing. If approved, the project could be completed by year's end, said Mike Yankovich, county planning services manager.
But Friends of the Swainson's Hawk, a Sacramento-based charitable organization concerned with wildlife conservation, is voicing concerns about the loss of wildlife associated with local wind energy projects. Of particular concern to the group are the cumulative impacts of the project in combination with other existing wind farms in the Montezuma Hills.
The majestic stretch of rolling terrain along the banks of the Sacramento River Delta, south of Highway 12, is heavily used by Swainson's hawks, say advocates for the "threatened" birds.
A 2007 raptor nesting survey of the region found 137 nesting pairs of raptors comprised of eight species, the group reported. Thirty-three "special status" nests were observed, including 11 Swainson's hawk, 10 northern harrier, three white-tailed kite and two golden eagle nests.
The project's final environmental reportreveals two Swainson's hawks recently were killed by wind turbines in the area.
The group concluded in written comments that the project falls short of state law by failing to address the "expected cumulative fatalities" of birds and bats.
However, project consultants for the county and the applicant, Nextra Energy Montezuma II Wind, LLC, pledged to provide habitat for wildlife and birds elsewhere.
The planning commission meets at 7 p.m. Thursday in the board of supervisors chambers, 675 Texas St., Fairfield.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

2010-12-10 "Wik-Bee Leaks: EPA Document Shows It Knowingly Allowed Pesticide That Kills Honey Bees" by Ariel Schwartz
The world honey bee population has plunged in recent years, worrying beekeepers and farmers who know how critical bee pollination is for many crops. A number of theories have popped up as to why the North American honey bee population has declined--electromagnetic radiation, malnutrition, and climate change have all been pinpointed. Now a leaked EPA document reveals that the agency allowed the widespread use of a bee-toxic pesticide, despite warnings from EPA scientists.
The document, which was leaked to a Colorado beekeeper, shows that the EPA has ignored warnings about the use of clothianidin, a pesticide produced by Bayer that mainly is used to pre-treat corn seeds. The pesticide scooped up $262 million in sales in 2009 by farmers, who also use the substance on canola, soy, sugar beets, sunflowers, and wheat, according to Grist [].
The leaked document (PDF) [] was put out in response to Bayer's request to approve use of the pesticide on cotton and mustard. The document invalidates a prior Bayer study that justified the registration of clothianidin on the basis of its safety to honeybees:
[begin excerpt]
Clothianidin’s major risk concern is to nontarget insects (that is, honey bees). Clothianidin is a neonicotinoid insecticide that is both persistent and systemic. Acute toxicity studies to honey bees show that clothianidin is highly toxic on both a contact and an oral basis. Although EFED does not conduct RQ based risk assessments on non-target insects, information from standard tests and field studies, as well as incident reports involving other neonicotinoids insecticides (e.g., imidacloprid) suggest the potential for long-term toxic risk to honey bees and other beneficial insects.
[end excerpt]
The entire 101-page memo is damning (and worth a read). But the opinion of EPA scientists apparently isn't enough for the agency, which is allowing clothianidin to keep its registration.
Suspicions about clothianidin aren't new; the EPA's Environmental Fate and Effects Division (EFAD) first expressed concern when the pesticide was introduced, in 2003, about the "possibility of toxic exposure to nontarget pollinators [e.g., honeybees] through the translocation of clothianidin residues that result from seed treatment." Clothianidin was still allowed on the market while Bayer worked on a botched toxicity study [PDF], in which test and control fields were planted as close as 968 feet apart.
Clothianidin has already been banned by Germany, France, Italy, and Slovenia for its toxic effects. So why won't the EPA follow? The answer probably has something to do with the American affinity for corn products. But without honey bees, our entire food supply is in trouble.